Increasing online sales: The e-commerce user experience

Are you more likely to buy a book on Amazon when you can first read what others had to say about it? Would watching a video of a fellow do-it-yourselfer perform home repairs make you more likely to purchase the tools and materials to do the job? Can you see the appeal of paying less for your eyeglasses online, but only if there’s a way to see how they’ll look on your face first?

Today’s most successful e-commerce companies don’t just sell things online — they understand how the Internet has changed the way consumers shop. The ability to provide rich caches of product information, reviews from peers and how-to demonstrations by experts as well as the ability to comparison shop and find the best deal has largely transformed shopping into a game. The goal is to get the best deal on products that best meet your needs and desires, according to a recent study by Yahoo! The study of 2,500 consumers found that consumers have become more deliberate and less impulse-driven when shopping online, and 82% said finding the best deal equals a win.

As with other games, the experience of playing is almost as important as the win. For e-commerce companies, that means providing the richest, most relevant content and keeping it current, using all available channels to enhance the experience and keeping a finger on the pulse of the customer.

Customer reviews

Studies show that 75% to 90% of consumers read online product reviews before making a purchase. If you haven’t already done so, create a space on your site where customers can post reviews.

Get listed on other sites that allow consumers to post reviews. Search engines increasingly include reviews in their results, and consumers often begin on Google or other search engines when they’re researching products. Use reviews — especially negative ones — as a way to begin conversations with customers.

Studies, including one at New York University’s business school, found that well-written reviews boost sales, whether they’re positive or negative, a finding that has some online retailers using tools that correct grammar and spelling while leaving the substance and tone of the reviews intact.

Make investments in mobile

Mobile has become a bigger part of the game, and successful companies are going to be the ones that make it both the easiest and most fun for smartphone and tablet shoppers to buy. Recently, consultant and author Amy Africa offered Shop.org tips on optimizing mobile sites, starting with making sure your mobile site is fast enough. Mobile sites need to be even faster than regular websites, she said, since mobile shoppers make their decisions six times faster than other online shoppers. They’re not going to wait around for your slow site to load.

That often means deciding which products need to be on the mobile-optimized site, making it as easy and quick to navigate, and making the action buttons impossible to miss.

Some other ways to make the game more fun

Add video and lots of it. How-to videos, demonstrations and fun videos.

Add games — literally. Last month, HSN added about 25 games, including Sudoku and Mahjongg, so visitors can play while watching the TV retailer’s real-time programming online. HSN’s target demographic is middle-aged women, who spend an average of more than two hours a month playing online games, the company told the The Wall Street Journal.

“As long as people are playing games, why lose them to another site?” says Jessica Rovello, co-founder of Arkadium, HSN’s video game partner.